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Film

'Hunger Games'-like German film draws from Nazi-era novel

Hungarian writer Ödön von Horváth wrote his 1937 novel about how fascism was destroying the youth. The story has been given a modern twist for German cinema in an adaptation reminiscent of "Hunger Games."

The new German film "Jugend ohne Gott" (Youth Without God) feels just like "Hunger Games" in the digital era. Everything revolves around one thing: rising above the masses and belonging to the elite.

Those who don't manage that seemingly impossible goal are forced to live in poverty or are exiled.

The film is the third adaptation of Ödön von Horváth's 1937 novel, which depicts a purely achievement-based society characterized by control mechanisms, consolidation of power, denunciation and surveillance.

Read more: Germany sets Oscar hopes on neo-Nazi film starring Diane Kruger

The ranks of power are filled with graduates of elite universities. To study there, applicants have to overcome a series of life-endangering boot camp-like challenges. The applicants, of course, come from well-to-do families and already belong to the upper-class.

But there is always one person who doesn't follow the rules.

Jannis Niewöhner (picture alliance/Sven Simon)

Popular German actor Jannis Niewöhner stars as Zach

Zach crosses boundaries and falls in love with Ewa, who holds illegal status and lives in exile in the forest. Their relationship is strictly forbidden, but it is uncovered - and inevitably leads to catastrophe.

Blockbuster-like film with a deep message

The film's German-Swiss director Alain Gsponer makes use of all the blockbuster clichés, integrating into the story the awkward outsider, the trustworthy character with integrity, the wild, beautiful woman, the evil jealous figure and a cut-throat career climber.

The cast is mainly made up of young, little-known actors and a few more established names from German cinema and television.

When Hungarian author Ödön von Horváth wrote "Youth Without God" in 1937, fascism was rampant in Europe. He observed how Nazi ideology had claimed the minds of the youth, stealing their humanity.

Read more: How Germany deals with Nazi propaganda films today

Gsponer's film replaces the ideology of the day with the more contemporary struggle for wealth and success. Those who don't conform to the system are fought.

Despite its title, "Youth Without God" has little to do with religion per se. Instead it envisions a dark world that - when everything goes wrong - is void of morality, humanity and compassion.

Released Thursday in German cinemas, the film has a message relevant to youths and adults alike - a Hollywood-quality film with depth. Watch the video above for a closer look.

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